“If I can stop one heart from breaking,” Emily Dickinson once wrote, “I shall not live in vain.” Imagine, then, what the poet would think of Andrea Yaeger.
The former tennis great has spent the last 15 years working hard to keep little hearts from breaking -- specifically, the hearts of children who are fighting cancer. Thanks to Andrea’s Silver Lining Foundation, these kids and their families get a much-needed break -- an all-expense-paid week of vacation in the breathtaking mountains of Aspen, Colo. As the Foundation’s Web site notes, “Participants exchange a sterile hospital environment and rigid medical schedule for white water rafting, horseback riding, gondola rides … skiing and making lifetime friends.”
What a welcome break this represents for children trapped in an otherwise grim environment. “It’s horrifying the things these kids have to go through,” Andrea told a reporter who noted that “the ranch has hosted kids with medicine-dispensing ports in their chests, kids missing half a nose, kids with their heads stapled together after having a brain tumor removed and 14-year-olds picking out the clothes they will wear at their funerals.”
How heart-warming and deeply satisfying it must be to bring smiles, laughter and happy memories to children who have to endure such suffering.
And with the assistance of Yaeger’s Little Star group, these children and their families get the support they need to battle their adversary, from educational seminars and medical conferences on cancer research to spiritual and religious retreats. Her work has attracted financial and moral support from a variety of celebrities, including Cindy Crawford, John McEnroe, Kevin Costner and Paul Newman. And when you see the determination in the young people that Andrea helps, it’s easy to see why.
Take 14-year-old Rob. As someone battling rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare and malignant form of childhood cancer, you might expect to find him bitter. But not Rob: “When I’m lying on a hospital bed receiving treatment or at home sick, I always ask myself, why me? Then I think of all the other horrors that plague the world besides my cancer, like war and famine, and in comparison to all of these, my illness appears to be so insignificant. If people have the strength and courage to end wars and put an end to famine, surely I have the power and courage to fight and beat cancer.”